Why LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel? What is the inspiration behind the apparel line? What is the back-story of LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel? How did an educator get into apparel? As we come close to the final months of our first collection, I would like to share the story behind LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel. This is the story of a social impact apparel line committed to transforming education, one shirt at a time.
I have been in the education field for much longer than I would like to admit. My mom was/is an educator, my older sister is a multifaceted educator and teaching was in my environment since the days of my earliest recollections. Education was not my first professional career choice, I was hoping to be the next Perry Mason or Matlock. As a result of assuming my first substitute-teaching job at 19 years old at a school located in the Cabrini-Green area (a Chicago Housing Authority project that use to be located on the Near North Side of Chicago, IL in the United States), I felt called to pursue education as my career. To this day, I have no regrets and am thankful for those who paved the way and mentored me along the many stages of this journey. From a teacher to a district-wide administrator and currently the founder of Learning Dimensions (one of the fastest growing Chicago-based educational companies), I have served learners in education for about 20 years. Time goes by fast when you are having fun!
After working in the education field (public, private and parochial) and studying educational systems in other countries, I have formed beliefs about learning and education. True learning goes beyond sitting for long hours behind desks, taking standardized tests, learning a selective body of knowledge and being sorted based on performance on achievement standards. The most meaningful learning experiences that I encountered were passion-driven and allowed me to investigate those things that made me curious. There was no prescribe way to how or what I learned; I was simply free to explore my learning journey at the pace that was most optimal for me.
I am saddened to say that the first time that I encountered my first life-changing educational experiences were during my undergraduate years in college. Although I had some well-meaning teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade, and it is fair to say I learned something, the approaches used to teach me were quite traditional and predictable. We can no longer have learners wait 12 years, 16 years or a lifetime before they truly engage in meaningful learning experiences. The notion that there may be some individuals who can honestly say that they never had a meaningful learning experience during their lifetime is disheartening.
My education views were inspired by authors like John Dewey (an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform), Maria Montessori (an Italian physician, educator and innovator acclaimed for her educational method that builds on the way children naturally learn), Sir Kenneth Robinson (an English author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts to government) and Tony Wagner (an American author, speaker and education advisor committed to creating innovative thinkers) all have made and make compelling cases for how our education system has to change if we are to create the innovators we need to face tomorrow’s challenges. All of them highlight the importance of creativity, passion and purpose when it comes to education.
Now that I have outlined the inspirations behind LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel, let me share with you how the line came to be. Once upon a time, a long time ago…no I’m kidding. It all began in May of 2015, when I delivered a TEDxPilsenWomen speech. In this talk, I shared practical approaches to overcoming mental self-constraints that may hinder one from tackling challenging tasks by examining strategies used to solve puzzles. Using the Nine Dots Puzzle as a reference point, I guided listeners through strategies that can ‘unblock’ the mind to enable them to ‘think outside the box’ in order to master complex skills and successfully tackle challenges. Click on the link below to see the talk. To highlight the major point made during the talk, ‘think outside the box,’ I had a Chicago-based multifaceted artist, Erick “Roho” Garcia design a t-shirt for the event. Well, not only was the talk well-received, but the t-shirt design was a hit and a fleeting thought came to my mind that I should mass produce and sell the ‘Think Outside the Box’ t-shirt design.
Shortly after that event I had a 3am realization (my greatest ideas seem to come to me at this time). I would combine my education philosophy and my desire to leave a lasting finger print in this field by launching an apparel line that was focused on rebranding the perception of learning and education from boredom-based to passion-driven learning experiences. I talked to “Roho” my designer and he was fully onboard. We both have the audacity to believe that we can transform education in our rebranding efforts through LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel. LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel became our passion project!
The name of the apparel line, LEARNtheBrand has a double meaning. The first meaning is the literal one, simply that our brand is called ‘Learn.’ The second meaning is the cryptic message. This is the call to action statement, which is saying that it is time to learn the “new” brand of what authentic education is; a type of learning experience that is innovative and passion-led. Through this apparel line, we hope to design and sell t-shirts (and other apparel and home items) that will not only visibly demonstrate this collective belief, but will allow a portion of our proceeds to be donated to organizations that are providing meaningful learning experiences to learners of all ages.
In this day and age, it seems like testing and textbooks companies seem to receive the most funds in education, rather than organizations that are committed to providing transformative learning experiences to learners of all ages. With this realization, an important aspect of LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel is to recognize, financially support and give visibility to organization of all types committed to making a great educational impact.
By identifying Learning Change agents, game changers in the education field, and sharing their story and the mission and vision of their affiliated organization via the Learning Dimensions: The Blog, we wish to propel these individuals and their organizations’ meaningful work as the front and center focus. We desire to have the LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel community to get acquainted with their work and play an active role in selecting the organization that should receive the funds from each collection.
We intend to be disruptive education innovators by creating an authentic image for education in people’s mind by displaying a consistent theme through our apparel items. We aim to provide vivid images that counteract the traditional education identity and narrative, offer opportunities for our customers and supporters to share the narrative with others as they wear our apparel items and deliver our full support for those organization that are in need of funding in order to continue to transform lives through their education efforts.
You see it is much more than a shirt. The shirt is the visible piece, while the movement building is what is most significant! Our minimalist designs are intended to take the focus off of the image itself, but rather engage people in meaningful conversations regarding true learning and education. This is what LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel is all about!
Since the inception of this enterprise we have been backed by a number of great supporters: Kiva Zip, BLUE1647, Threadless, Jackson Corporate Law Offices, 8TivLabs, Jabari Hunt Photography, Moonrose Agency, Inc., and more importantly, our customer community. As we approach the final months of offering our limited-edition designs of our first collection, if you have not done so already, consider joining the movement and assisting us in our efforts.
Click on the link to access our online store hosted by Threadless (a Chicago-based t-shirt company committed to supporting the artist and educational community that has collaborated with companies such as Gap, Thermos as well as Dell). Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram @learnthebrand_impact_apparel. Feel free to share LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel with your friends, family and everyone. Together we can transform education, one shirt at a time!
Photo Credit: TEDxPilsenWomen; Rossijoyphoto.com